User Research on a Budget - Improvisation for Better UX

Learn how to make your audience happy when purse strings are tight and deadlines loom.

By Graeme Watt, 23 October 2017

“Our time and budget is limited”

This is an all too familiar scenario when building a new website. It is often the case that user research and usability testing can get overlooked as they are seen as resource-intensive and can be expensive.  

Yet, these remain critical elements to successful projects. The good news is, there are less costly and quicker solutions for those working under time and budget constraints to ensure the user remains at the forefront of design decisions. 

Guerrilla Testing 

This is faster, cheaper and less formal than traditional testing methods. It is unconventional but effective and most importantly it provides actionable data. Guerrilla testing removes a lot of the pain points of traditional testing methods such as expensive recording equipment, research lab, paperwork/admin and getting participants to come to you.

In its most basic form you would:

  •         approach someone (often friends and family)
  •         ask them if they would like to answer a few questions about your prototype
  •         give them tasks
  •         observe
  •         collect the data

The obvious problem is you might not always end up with your desired candidates and ultimately this should not be seen as a like for like replacement for more in-depth methods but having some data to work with is definitely better than none. 

Analytics research

Although primarily used by digital marketers, Google Analytics can also be extremely helpful to UX researchers and best of all it is completely free. Analytics will offer insight on how users are travelling (flow) through your website, you can set up custom funnels so you can see exactly where the pain points exist and what stages people drop out of your conversion path and custom event tracking allows you to track micro interactions such as video plays or opening menus.

Analytics, even with custom event tracking is easy to implement and provides a wealth of valuable data.


Desk Research (secondary research)

We have an entire world of information at our fingertips through the internet yet we often overlook it in the UX process. You should be able to find multiple studies online about user interaction and decision processes from a variety of industries which are relevant to your audience. Secondary research sources are also helpful when identifying best practices and web standards to be followed.

This can be a simple and easy way to answer questions which you may have about your users.


A/B Testing

This is the process of showing users two different options and receiving feedback on each of them. It is a great method of finding out what users like, however, it overlooks the ‘why’.

A/B testing is particularly effective when testing small individual elements such as calls to action, copy or design tweaks. This is often done at the prototype stage as this allows us to flush out what doesn’t work before the website goes live. That being said many will conduct this after going live for a continuous refinement of their website.



Budget and time are simply not a good enough reason to ignore your users.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of building a website which appeals to the designer and the client, however, this is completely missing the mark most of the time.

Improving your user experience will make your audience happier and will grow your business. We have highlighted only a few of the techniques which can be used when the purse strings are tight and deadlines loom, indeed there are much more.

If you would like to discuss how Zen can improve your business with UX then please get in touch

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